On Wednesday, 12 January 2021, at around 9:00 A.M., Civil Administration personnel came with a military and Border Police escort and equipped with bulldozers to the Palestinian community of Khirbet al-Fakhit in Masafer Yatta, South Hebron Hills. The forces demolished nine structures, including three housing units inhabited by three families from the same extended family, leaving 18 people, including 11 minors, homeless. The demolition was carried out by the power of demolition orders delivered on 21 February 2016. The other demolished structures, belonging to the same family, included three livestock enclosures, a livestock pen, a kitchen, and fodder storage and a cistern on the family’s land.
Khirbet al-Fakhit is one of the Masafer Yatta communities whose area of residence was declared “Firing Zone 918” by the military in the 1980s as part of Israel’s efforts to expel them. Twenty-two families live in the community, numbering 180 people. Most community structures face immediate risk of demolition after the families have been issued demolition orders. Although the area was declared a "firing zone," community residents tried to obtain permits for their homes retroactively. To that end, they even submitted an outline plan that could have allowed it if approved. These attempts, which were hopeless from the outset, failed after the Civil Administration Planning Committee, the Israeli District Court and the High Court of Justice rejected their requests. In early January, HCJ judges rejected the residents' last petition, and now the Civil Administration has begun enforcing the demolition orders.
Filmed by Basil al-Adraa, Eid Hazalin and Itai Feitelson
In so-called training, the military destroyed hundreds of dunams of crops, tilled fields and farming roads in the area of Khirbet Ibziq. Soldiers fired shells hundreds of meters from community homes, and the Civil Administration again demolished the tents of three families. The official insistence on training in the area, and that in any case it is a “closed firing zone” barred to Palestinians, relies on empty arguments masking the Israeli apartheid regime’s long-term goals: driving the residents out to further control and use area resources. Read more
In the past month, the military has evacuated families from Khirbet Ibzik five times on the pretext that it needs to hold training right by the community’s homes. The last evacuation took place on 27 December 2021, at 8:00 A.M. The military did not allow the families to return to their homes until 2:00 A.M. On the day of the evacuation and the following day, the military conducted training, including with tanks, near the community’s homes and cultivated fields, damaging barley crops. Tanks fired shells 350 meters away from the residents’ homes. At around 9:00 A.M., Civil Administration personnel also came to the community. They dismantled and confiscated three residential tents belonging to three families numbering 16 people in total, including six minors. They also confiscated and dismantled eight tents used as livestock enclosures, two tents used for storing fodder, two water tanks and two solar panels.
On Tuesday, 21 December 2021, at 9:00 A.M., military forces again arrived in the northern Jordan Valley to train near Palestinian communities, following the military training and the evacuations of the families that began on 5 December 2021. The forces trained near Khirbet ‘Atuf, Khirbet Um al-Jamal, Khirbet al-Malih, Kardalah, and the a-Shakh area of al-Farisiya. The soldiers roamed among residents’ homes and near their farmland. Armored forces also trained in the area, firing tank shells near the village of al-Farisiyah. The tanks drove through cultivated fields and damaged dozens of dunams of wheat and barley crops. Troops began leaving the area on Thursday, 23 December 2021.
Residents of the area where the training took place could not go out to graze their flock for fear of being harmed.
On Wednesday, 1 December 2021, the Civil Administration confiscated six tractors, four water containers, and five private vehicles in the Khirbet Ras al-Ahmar area in the northern Jordan Valley.
On Sunday, 5 December 2021, on the first day of military training in the northern Jordan Valley, the Civil Administration confiscated a tractor used by a resident of ‘Aqaba to perform agricultural work in the area.
On Monday, 14 December 2021, at 10:00 A.M., Civil Administration personnel arrived with a military and Border Police escort and equipped with two bulldozers to the land of the community of Khalet al-Furn in the South Hebron Hills. The forces raked agricultural land in a 4-dunam area, and demolished a cistern owned by a family from East Jerusalem by the power of Military Order 1797.
On Wednesday, 15 December 2021, Mahmoud Hamamdeh, a farmer from Khirbet al-Mufaqarah, plowed his plot of land in the Khirbet a-Rakeez area about a kilometer east of which the settlement of Avigail was established. A settler who noticed the work summoned the Civil Administration, who came to the scene accompanied by a military jeep and confiscated the tractor and a digger on the pretext that it was used for work on state land.
On Thursday, 16 December 2021, farmer Sa’id ‘Awad from the community of Um Lasafa plowed his land near the community of She’b al-Batem in the South Hebron Hills using a tractor and a digger. The work was coordinated with the Civil Administration (C.A.), and one of its representatives was present on the ground along with soldiers who accompanied him. At around 11:00 A.M., About six settlers came to the land. The settlers spoke with the representative of the C.A., and after a few minutes, the latter forbade the farmer to plow all his lands and ordered him to settle for part of it. The farmer moved to a nearby plow he owns, where the military does not require him to coordinate his work, and began plowing it. However, the C.A. representative and the soldiers then confiscated the tractor and the plow he used on the pretext that it was state land.
On Sunday, 5 December 2021, at around 9:00 A.M., Civil Administration personnel came with a military escort to the community of Khirbet Ibzik in the northern Jordan Valley. The forces delivered six families, numbering 35 people, including 17 minors, orders forcing them to vacate their homes and stay at least five kilometers away from them for four days (between 5 December and 15 December), every day for 18 hours from 8:00 A.M. until the next day at 2:00 A.M., so the military could train inside the community’s territory. In addition, on the first day of training, the forces confiscated the tractor of a resident of ‘Aqaba, which was used that day to perform agricultural work in the area.
On each of the days when the residents were required to evacuate, two jeeps of the Civil Administration arrived at their homes in the morning to make sure that they had left their homes. During the training, tanks were stationed in the hills east of Ibzik and Khirbet Qa’un, north of Bardalah. Some of the tanks trampled cultivated fields, destroyed crops and damaged agricultural roads and water pipes belonging to area farmers.
On Wednesday, 15 December 2021, Civil Administration personnel came to the community again accompanied by soldiers and delivered six families an order instructing them to vacate their homes again on 27 December 2021, from 8:00 A.M. until the next day at 2:00 A.M., so the military could train inside the community’s territory.
Two members of the families ordered to evacuate gave testimonies to B'Tselem field researcher 'Aref Daraghmeh:
Muhammad Nasrallah (50), a father of six: On 30 November 2021, Civil Administration personnel and the military came and handed us and five other families eviction orders so the military could train in the area. The orders indicated four days when we were supposed to evacuate from morning till noon. On the first morning we were due to evacuate, 5 December 2021, Civil Administration personnel and the military came again and handed us new orders stipulating that the evacuations wouldn't be until the afternoon but until 2:00 A.M. We were in the middle of our morning routine: making breakfast, tending to the flock, preparing the kids for school, but Civil Administration and the military wouldn't leave us alone until we left our homes and then they led us about six kilometers away. They did this on each of the evacuation days. We had to move to the tents of relatives, but it was uncomfortable, and we couldn't sleep on those nights. And when we come back, in the middle of the night, in the cold and darkness, we usually found that the flock went into the tents and made a mess. It was impossible to do anything in the dark, so we just went to sleep. After a few days, we were taken out of our houses again.
Hayel Turkman (41), a father of 10: We stayed in a house belonging to my brother each time. It's not our home, and we didn't feel comfortable there. At night, we heard bombings and gunfire. We stayed awake until 2:00 A.M. and then went home, on foot, of course. We were terrified of encountering wild animals in the dark or stepping on remnants of military ammunition. We were exhausted from lack of sleep. It took us half an hour to get back to our tents. When we arrived, the women and children went to sleep, and I checked on the flock, which was already starving, and gave it food. The next day, we checked the tents and the kitchen, and on some days, we found a big mess there because some of the flock went into the tents and turned things over. Each time, I went around the tents to check if any ammunition was left behind. Luckily, I didn't find anything. Each year, we evacuate our tents for this training. Our lives have become very difficult in this place, and we don't feel safe here, but we have no other place else to live in.
On Monday, 6 December 2021, at around 8:30 A.M., Civil Administration personnel came with a military and Border Police escort and a bulldozer to the village of al-Buweib, east of the town of Yatta in Hebron District. The forces demolished an agricultural structure owned by a family from Hebron.
From there, the forces continued west to the village of Zif, where they demolished a home intended for a family of 11, including 8 minors, and a cistern, by power of Military Order 1797.
On Sunday, 5 December 2021, at around 8:00 A.M., Civil Administration personnel accompanied by soldiers and equipped with a bulldozer arrived at Khirbet Humsah al-Foqa in the northern Jordan Valley. The forces dismantled and confiscated two unoccupied tents owned by two families from the same extended family. These tents were pitched again after they were destroyed and confiscated, along with 11 other tents used as residences, earlier this year, as part of Israel’s efforts to drive the residents off their lands.
On Thursday, 2 December 2021, at around 9:00 A.M., Civil Administration personnel accompanied by soldiers and equipped with a bulldozer arrived at Khirbet al-Markaz in the area of Masafer Yatta, in the South Hebron Hills. The forces demolished four tin-roofed stone structures, which housed four families with a total number of 20 members, including six minors. The forces also demolished three agricultural structures made of tin that were owned by one of the families.
The Civil Administration issued the demolition orders back in 2014 alleging the homes were located inside Firing Zone 918. The Planning Council has rejected a detailed plan submitted by the residents since. On 17 November 2021, the HCJ dismissed the residents’ appeal against the demolition.
In the early 1980s, Israel declared an area of about 3,000 hectares in the South Hebron Hills known as Masafer Yatta a restricted military zone and dubbed it ‘Firing Zone 918’. Dozens of Palestinian families had been living in the area for years, since before Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967. They lived in 12 small villages, in natural or man-made caves, some all year round and others only seasonally, and earned a living as farmers and shepherds.
Israel’s regime of apartheid and occupation is inextricably bound up in human rights violations. B’Tselem strives to end this regime, as that is the only way forward to a future in which human rights, democracy, liberty and equality are ensured to all people, both Palestinian and Israeli, living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.